Cherie Blair is Labour’s Prince Philip: a tactless liability who is notable only through marriage. (She’s also the only person in the party with a smile weirder than Gordon Brown’s.) But let us, unlike the rabid media sheep, never speak of her again.
Otherwise, I think yesterday was a good day. If you’re reading this, you’ll have seen some of the coverage already. I’ll start with one piece of background. In a Guardian/ICM poll last week, David Cameron came out as more likable than Brown on several criteria. But Brown has a clear lead on “Who is likely to make the right decisions when the going gets tough?”
Gets tough? The going is tough. There are two giant developing superpowers threatening to suck jobs away from us. There are weak states incubating terrorism. There’s dire need for a workable post-Kyoto climate/energy agreement. We have to make our schools and hospitals better able to respond to people’s needs in a way that doesn’t crowd out the poor. And we need those poorest people to benefit more and more from a strong economy.
We need a PM with the will, experience, passion and expertise to take all this on.
But we also want an election-winner. Brown will have to boost his popularity by playing to his strengths, his embodiment of substance over spin – or as he put it yesterday, “service” over “spectacle”. His best strategy is simply (not that it’s simple) to govern well, to tackle the challenges mentioned above. Also, as I argued last month, to redistribute power under the Labour banner – an agenda the Tories have been talking about, but that their knee-jerk anti-statism means they cannot fulfil. Brown seems to get this:
“…in the new century people and communities should now take power from the state and that means for the new challenges ahead a reinvention of the way we govern: the active citizen, the empowered community, open enabling government. … I want a radical shift of power from the centre.”
True, at the moment, none of Labour’s possible leadership contenders is as well liked as Cameron; he’s adeptly sailed with a fair wind behind him this last year. Which means we need a leader who can make the weather.
I think Brown’s the man.